The Italian Almanac


Totò

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Totò - (Antonio De Curtis)

Born in 1898, son of Anna Clemente and Giuseppe de Curtis, son of a Marquis.
As a youngster, he preferred sports to studying, and in an incident with either a football or in the boxing ring, part of his nose became paralysed, thus giving him that look which later became his trademark. Travelled to Rome to work in local theatres and met Liliana Castagnola, who committed suicide when Toto would not refuse a contract in Padova.
In 1931 he met Diana Bandini Rodigliani. They had a daughter, Liliana in 1934 and married in 1935 (various dates given). He filed for divorce in Hungary on the grounds of her infidelity and it was finally ruled in Italy in 1940. For the sake of their daughter, they continued their family life by still living together, but free to have other relationships.
It was on the set of his first film that he met the actress Silvana Pampanini. The media reported this blooming relationship and Diana accepted a marriage proposal from a lawyer. Apparently Toto felt very hurt and when he wrote the song "Malafemmina", it was rumoured that he really wrote it for Diana.
His real true love came in the form of Franca Faldini in 1951 when he was taken aback by her photo on the cover of 'Oggi'. She was only 21- he 53. They secretly wed in Switzerland in 1954 and in October of that year, Franca almost died giving birth to their son Massenzio, who sadly died a few hours later
Toto threw himself back into work, but in 1956, he suffered a serious bout of bronchitis. Three days later in Milan, he forced himself to go on stage, but had to return to his sick bed. His tour took him to Geneva, then Florence, then Palermo. In each of these places he suffered gradual loss of sight which would plaugue him for the rest of his years.
Up until two days prior to his death, he was working but still ill. His last word were directed at the true love of his life: "I've loved you very much Franca. Very much."

From a very young age he showed a passion for variety, acting in caricature sketches and impersonations under the pseudonym of Clerment. After moving to Rome with his parents in 1922, he obtained various engagements and finally made his debut with outstanding results at the Umberto I theatre.
In 1927 he joined Achille Maresca's theatre company where the primadonna was the famous Isa Bluette. In the early 1930s he became the theatre manager and led the troupe around Italy on a number of variety shows, all of which were greeted enthusiastically by the public.
In 1937 Totò made his cinema debut with "Hands Off Me (Fermo con le mani!)" by Gero Zambuto, followed by "Animali pazzi" (1939) by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia and "St. John the Baptist Beheaded (San Giovanni decollato)" (1940) by Amleto Palermi. The lukewarm public reception given to this films prompted him to return to the theatre, where he won triumphal success in the shows directed by Antonio Galdieri ("Quando meno te l’aspetti", 1940; "Volumineide", 1942; "Che ti sei messo in testa?" and "Con un palmo di naso", both in 1944; "C’era una volta il mondo", 1947; "Bada che ti mangio", 1949), where he occasionally appeared alongside Anna Magnani.
In 1947 he returned to the cinema with "The Two Orphans (I due orfanelli)" by Mario Mattoli, this time more successfully. From then on, he gradually found himself acting in more and more films, and in 1950 he decided to withdraw from theatre acting altogether (apart from a one-off reappearance in 1956 with "A prescindere" by Nelli and Mangini).
His most memorable films include "Fifa e arena" (1948) by Mattoli, "Totò le Moko" (1949) by Bragaglia, "Totò Looks for an Apartment (Totò cerca casa)" (1949) by Steno and Mario Monicelli, "Naples Millionaire (Napoli milionaria)" (1950) by Eduardo De Filippo, "Cops and Robbers (Guardie e ladri)" (1951) by Steno and Monicelli, "Toto in Color (Totò a colori)" (1952) by Steno, "Every Day's a Holiday (L’oro di Napoli)" (1954) by Vittorio De Sica, Toto, Peppino and the Hussy (Totò, Peppino e la malafemmina) (1956) by Camillo Mastrocinque, Persons Unknown (I soliti ignoti) (1958) by Mario Monicelli, "Signori si nasce" (1960) by Mario Mattoli, "Totò Diabolicus" (1962) by Steno, "Hawks and Sparrows (Uccellacci e uccellini)" (1966), and the episodes "La terra vista dalla luna" (1967, from "The Witches (Le streghe)") and "Che cosa sono le nuvole" (1967, from "Caprice Italian Style (Capriccio all’italiana)"), all directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Totò also wrote some highly successful songs, the most famous of which was without doubt "Malafemmena" (1951), and Neapolitan poems published in the collection "A livella" (1964).

He died in Rome on 15 April 1967.